Details of Disappearance Fowler was last seen in Bowling Green, Kentucky on the morning of June 19, 1999. His wife, Debra Kessinger, said he told her he was going fishing at Barren River Lake along the Allen/Warren county line. He never returned from his fishing trip and has never been heard from again.
Debra searched for her husband herself and contacted family members and friends to ask about him after he didn't return home from his trip. She called the police, but they told her she had to wait 24 hours to file a missing persons report.
On June 21, she contacted a state official at Barren River Lake who offered to meet her there and help her search for Fowler. En route to the lake, while driving over the Kentucky 101 Bridge, Debra saw her husband's boat in the Barren River, two miles downstream from the lake, and pointed it out to the state worker. On June 21, searchers found his minivan off Osborne Ford Road.
Fowler had worked as a lineman at Farmers Rural Electric Cooperative for twenty years prior to his disappearance. On June 18, the day before he was last seen, he called in sick.
Authorities stated they didn't find any overnight provisions in Fowler's boat or vehicle, though he was supposed to be on an overnight trip. The boat had no motor or oars when it was found.
Fowler also hadn't mentioned any plans to go fishing to his coworkers, and his family and friends said he preferred golfing and turkey hunting to fishing. The Barren River is shallow and investigators stated they should have found his body if it had been there.
In August 1999, two months after Fowler's disappearance, police stated they had reclassified it as a possible homicide. Debra is a suspect in his case, but authorities believe more than one individual was involved in his death.
There's a theory that Debra and her son, Walter's stepson, Mac Kessenger, killed Fowler together and disposed of his body. Debra described the allegation as "crazy" and stated Mac had been raised by her parents on their farm and she didn't have a close relationship with him.
Debra and Fowler were $250,000 in debt at the time of his disappearance and she was the beneficiary of his life insurance policy, but Debra said she didn't know about the policy until 2008, when Fowler was declared legally dead.
Debra was convicted of arson in 2015 and sentenced to six years in prison. She burned down a Dollar General store, causing over a million dollars in damage, to cover up thousands of dollars' worth of missing money and merchandise. She was the store's manager and committed the arson just before an audit would have exposed the losses.
Debra maintains her innocence in Fowler's case. She stated she'd been working as a police informant when he disappeared, telling police about the activity of drug dealers, and suggested these dealers were involved in Fowler's disappearance.
She also suggested he simply walked away, perhaps going to Montana, to escape his debts and the stress of his life. She described their relationship as "a usual marriage" with no major problems.
No charges have been filed in Fowler's case; it remains unsolved.
- Warren County Sheriff's Office
Updated 4 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated December 19, 2017; details of disappearance updated.